Thursday, October 30, 2008

Flush Joe the Plumber

On Tuesday, we will vote for our next president. I strongly encourage you to vote for whomever you choose - just be sure to vote.

I also urge you to join me in impeaching Joe the Plumber. We need to unilaterally send this guy back to Ohio to fix toilets. In support of my argument, I present the following evidence:

  • Joe the Plumber lied about his name. His real moniker is not Joe. It is Samuel Wurzelbacher.

  • Joe the Plumber is not, as he lied to Barack Obama, considering buying a plumbing business in Ohio. In fact, he's not even a licensed plumber.

  • Joe the Plumber would not suffer under Obama's tax policy which proposes to raise taxes on those who make over $250,000 a year. In fact, Samuel the Unlicensed Plumber made only $40,000 last year, and the company for which he works made only $100,000. Therefore, both Wurzelbacher and his boss would actually benefit under Obama's tax plan.

  • Joe the Plumber announced that he is considering running for Congress, despite the fact that Ohio has an outstanding lien against him for $1,182.98 in back taxes. (I don't need to state the obvious, but I will: in lacking experience, education, wisdom, good sense, and humility, this would-be emperor is buck-ass naked.)

  • Joe the Plumber, flush with his instant fame, yesterday hired a public relations firm to handle his many requests for interviews. (The real question is: why does the press continue to talk to this nobody?)

  • Joe the Plumber, despite his fervent political aspirations, yesterday announced he is pursuing a country/western music contract. (If he sings as well as he spouts tired Republican talking points, Nashville is in real trouble.)

  • Joe the Plumber today received John McCain's unending gratitude despite the fact that Wurzelbacher stood him up at a campaign event. When Wurzelbacher didn't appear, John McCain urged the crowd to give his favorite plumber a hand "for all that he has done for this country." (WTF?)

  • Joe the Plumber made his presidential endorsement this evening, telling ABC News that in terms of his vote, "It’s going to be for a real American. It’s going to be for a real American, John McCain." (As compared to the real American, Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii? Perhaps "real Americans" have to be born in the lower 48?)

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. The fact of the matter is, Joe the Plumber's 15 minutes were up two weeks ago. I urge you to push that lever on Tuesday. Not the lever in the voting booth, but the one that will now and forever flush Joe the Plumber from public consciousness! Or at least mine.

We're definitely not in Kansas anymore...

Nor in Alaska either!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wacko pugs, installment three

It's been a while since I've chronicled God's most creative creatures, which I lovingly call Wacko Pugs. What is a wacko pug? Simply a great dog who is a conglomeration of pug and some other pure-bred canine. The result is truly a one-of-a-kind pup. Of course, all dogs are one-of-a-kind, but these guys are really something else. (Check out Installment 1 and Installment 2 to see other pug mixes.)

Today, let's begin with an unlikely pair: pug and poodle. Pugs are the burly halfbacks of the dog world, even when they're girls. In contrast, poodles are prissy little things who prance. Join the two together, and you have this honey-colored beauty. She looks less prissy and more halfback to me - perhaps she's a quarterback???

Speaking of feminine dogs, how about this little doll? She's a chow chow/pug mix who looks like she belong in Paris Hilton's bag. This one is definitely a girly-girl, red hair bows and all. I'd love to know if she's got a black tongue, one of the chow's distinguishing characteristics.

Next, a shih tzu/pug mix who just begs to be loved. Who could deny this sweet thing whatever he wants? I'd spoil this wacko pug until he was completely insufferable (kind of like my dog!).

And how about this built-in lifeguard of a dog who can signal storm warnings with his contrary ears? He's an Eskimo dog/pug mix, a combo I never thought I'd see.

I can't imagine anyone saying "hit the road, Jack," to this adorable Jack Russell/pug pup. I bet he's nothing but trouble, but he's a real cutie.

And I'll end this installment of Wacko Pugs with the wise, knowing eyes of this pomeranian/pug dog. He is undoubtedly an old soul who would cuddle up with you just to let you know that everything will be okay. Like the rest of these unique creations, what a great dog.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Great Depression about delusions of grandeur

A couple of thoughts today in response to MSNBC and CNBC's insistent and persistent reporting that we MIGHT be in a recession. Excuse me? We MIGHT be in a recession? What are they thinking?

Yes, I know economists technically define recession as two or more consecutive quarters of negative gross domestic product (GDP). The United States of America apparently does not officially qualify for recession status because our GDP was .9 percent in the first quarter and 2.9 percent in the second quarter. And in what can only be seen as completely delusional, the Bureau of Economic Analysis projects that the third quarter GDP will be 3.8 percent.

HUH? The American economy is growing? Are they nuts?

I'm no economist, but defining recession by this measurement is clearly meaningless. We're not only in a recession - we're in a depression, as evidenced by:

Exponentially growing unemployment. As the 760,000 lost jobs this year prove (my brother and ex-husband are among these poor souls), unemployment is staggering - and is likely to only get worse.

Falling house prices. Inman News stated today that home prices have fallen 11.3 percent and that "there's no reason to expect any improvement and, if anything, things could get worse."

Rapidly increasing mortgage defaults. As Bloomberg reports, "U.S. foreclosure filings increased 71 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier to the highest on record as home prices fell and stricter mortgage standards made it harder for homeowners to sell or refinance, RealtyTrac said." Seventy-one percent??? Good God!

The interminable credit crisis in the nation's banks. Even Alan Greenspan said today that he is in "shocking disbelief" that the economy is such a "tsunami." If Greenspan's shocked, what the heck am I supposed to think, do, or feel?

The high cost of gas. Even with the commodity's recent falling price, it still costs $45 to fill up my Beetle. I don't even know what SUV owners do every week. I just couldn't do it.

The astronomical growth in grocery prices. I bought three bags of groceries - on sale - yesterday and still managed to burn through $111.83. Shoot me now.

Clearly, the United States is not in happy financial times simply because the GDP is up. I don't think we're even in a recession. Depression, with all its unfortunate and costly misery, rules. No delusions of grandeur here.

However, speaking of delusions of grandeur, I can't help but mention the GOP's glitzy fashion maven, Sarah Palin. As I'm sure you've already heard, she managed in eight weeks to blow through $150,000 in chi-chi-poo-poo frocks and other accouterment. Listen, it may feel like the woman fell off a snowmobile and into the vice presidential race, but c'mon, she is a governor! How bad could her apparel have possibly been? I understand getting some new duds for a national political contest, but $150,000 in two months? Thank God Obama's in the lead because we can't afford this woman! At the rate she's going, we'd spend nearly a million dollars a year just keeping her clothed!

In this awful, dreadful, miserable, hopeless, horrifying, appalling, atrocious, revolting, and vile economy, the American people don't suffer from a single delusion of grandeur. Instead, we're cowering under a pile of pink slips, past due credit card bills, empty wallets, late mortgage payments, and burgeoning fear.

I wish I had a single delusion of grandeur. If I did, I'd whip out that overburdened credit card and go on a long tropical vacation. Alas, I need to be real - and everyone else does, too. The last things we require right now are confused economists and fancily dressed politicians. And I haven't even mentioned Congress yet...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Denis Leary is just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.

NBC makes the following report:

In the book, "Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide To Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid," (Denis) Leary makes light of autism and says it's an excuse used by "inattentive mothers and competitive dads" to explain why their "kids can't compete academically." In an excerpt of the book published in the New York Post, Leary writes: "I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you -- yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."

Denis Leary is a complete ass. I'm sorry, I can't say it in a gentler way. I have three nephews who struggle with autism-spectrum disorders, and I can promise you, none of them can blame their inattentive mothers and competitive dads. Denis Leary should come meet these three wonderful young men - and my siblings. He wouldn't have the gall to say those things to my face, or theirs.

No one understands the rapid rise of autism, but I think every autism researcher in the country would agree that Denis Leary is just stupid. Or lazy. Or both. What an ass.

The Rockville Post Office Mural

Word comes that the General Services Administration has donated the old Rockville Post Office to the city government for use as the Rockville Police Department headquarters. According to, the renovation will cost $7.9 million while "retaining the historic nature of the building, specifically the exterior facades facing South Washington Street and West Montgomery Avenue and the lobby."

That's cool. But what's more interesting to me is that this historic building houses yet another WPA mural. (I wrote about the Silver Spring mural recently.) Painted in 1940 by Judson Dejonge Smith, the Rockville mural features Sugarloaf Mountain. Fortunately, the city will preserve the mural as part of the renovation process.

I love the mural in part because it looks like it could have been painted today. Owned and preserved by the Strong Foundation, Sugarloaf Mountain looks just as it did nearly 70 years ago - unlike the rest of Montgomery County. Yes, some new McMansions scar the bucolic beauty, but the region has escaped the biggest banes of suburbia: way too many Bradford pear trees, way too many houses on way too tiny lots, and worst of all, way too many strip malls and big-box stores.

Judson Smith painted at least two other murals in a similar simple and naturalistic style. This mural, entitled "Along the Barge Canal," hangs in the Albion, NY, post office. Smith painted it in 1939, a year before painting "Sugarloaf Mountain" for Rockville's post office.

And here is his painting of the beautiful Lake George for the post office there. He finished this work in 1942. It reminds me very much of the "Sugarloaf Mountain" mural.

Born in Michigan in 1880, Judson has been described as a "businessman turned painter." A painter, teacher and muralist, Judson Smith lived both in Michigan and Woodstock, New York, where he was the Director of the Woodstock School of Painting. He is recognized as one of the best New Deal painters.

As our nation's leaders attempt to pull our country from the brink of depression, perhaps they will commission new artwork for our public spaces. Hopefully not yet another ugly abstract metal sculpture! But more naturalistic paintings inspired by Judson Dejonge Smith's fine work.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Less than a dollar a day

Today is Blog Action Day when literally thousands of bloggers are taking up the issue of poverty to "raise awareness, initiate action and to shake the web." Great idea. I'll weigh in.

I originally thought I'd write about how terrible the economy is and my worry that we'll soon be starring in "Great Depression - The Sequel." I've personally lost over $100,000 in 401K savings, and after my divorce and the recession, I am broke. I even borrowed "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck from the library; I figured I'd better start boning up on how to survive the very worst of financial disasters. (Fortunately, I feel absolutely zero compulsion to load everything I own into my VW Beetle and drive across country to pick peaches. Apparently, I would make a lousy Joad.)

Anyway, as I was ramping up to whine, I saw a map that changed my mind. Since a picture paints a thousand words, I'll let you look at how many people in this world live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day:

I don't know about you, but the only way I can live on less than a dollar a day is to stay home and not turn on the computer. The downturn has revived any notion I ever had of frugality, but this is different. We're lucky; very few in the US live in extreme poverty. Western Europe, Russia, and Australia are also faring well. But look at South America and China. Six to 20% of these folks are living on less than a buck a day. And compared to Africa, the South Americans and Chinese are living like overfed royalty.

So even as we fret over lost retirement funds and increasing unemployment, let us remember how much we have here in America - and how we have a responsibility to others much less fortunate than ourselves. This puts a whole new spin into the old Hollies record, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."

Is there anything we can do to fight hunger and poverty in this world? Here are a few ideas:
  • Provide microloans to the poor via OptInNow. As the organization's website says, "You give a gift that funds a loan. That loan builds a business. And that business helps hard working families out of poverty. When the loan is repaid, it’s recycled, and loaned again and again. It’s giving that keeps going." As an entrepreneur, I like this idea a lot. Giving as little as $25 to start a business? Priceless.

  • Knit something for Afghans For Afghans. The organization "sends hand-knit and crocheted blankets and sweaters, vests, hats, mittens, and socks to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan." I've knitted several pairs of mittens for this non-profit. It really warms my heart to know that I am keeping someone warm in one of the least fortunate countries in the world.

  • Stop buying your daily latte or Diet Coke and donate that money to charity. You might put Starbucks out of business, but you could make a real difference to a family in the Third World.

I'll close this Steinbeck quote: "How can you frighten a man whose hunger is not only in his own cramped stomach but in the wretched bellies of his children? You can't scare him - he has known a fear beyond every other." Do what you can to quell that fear, to feed those wretched bellies. It is our obligation to each other - and to ourselves, too.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Brad rocks

Forgive my bragging… but my brother’s son, Brad, won a soon-to-be-televised match on It’s Academic, a long-running, DC area, high school, TV quiz show. This is even more of an achievement for Brad because he is the only sophomore selected for the team; usually only seniors win the honor to be on TV. But Brad is simply a freaking genius – and he’s handsome and sweet as can be, too. Plus he’s like 6’3”! If I weren’t his aunt and 35 years too old, I’d date Brad in a minute.

I’m very proud, as you can tell. :-) Brad is the dude on the left (which won’t be surprising if you’ve ever met my brother!).